We’ll be frank, we weren’t 100% sure that you do need winter tyres or that they were necessary for this trip.
If we’re completely honest, we secretly thought that winter tyres were a bit of a marketing ploy and that fine, if you live in Scandinavia, you probably need them but not for a road trip through the Alps – well looked after roads with lots of tourists on them. We know you need chains in some places and snow tyres are mandatory in others, but we could probably avoid those places… surely it’s not worth the added expense and inconvenience of having to store your regular tyres?
Oh. How. Wrong. We. Were.
We’ve kindly been given our winter rubber by Falken Tyres UK but we can tell you, we are not obliged in any way to write this blog and we’re doing it because we’re now both of the opinion that if you’re going to the Alps for a motorhome ski trip, you should invest in some winter tyres. Total converts. In fact, if you want to make some comparisons of you’re own – click the banner below as all the major manufacturers are on the Tyres.net comparison tool.
You’ve probably never even heard of Falken Tyres but they’re well known in motor racing circles which is enough of an endorsement for us. Thank god, because we might have tried to get away with it until later in the trip.
There was a moment – about 900 miles into our journey from the UK when we first felt the benefit of our sexily titled ‘Falken EUROWINTER VAN01’s’. Driving into a Carrefour car park 1000m above sea level, negotiating some tight corners and massively fatigued. The point was, we didn’t notice anything was amiss until we jumped out of the van and both James and I immediately struggled to stay upright on the snow-dusted icy skidpan that was hiding the car park tarmac.
How did we just manoeuvre a 3.5 tonne beast of a ski motorhome into this place without instigating an international incident?
With winter tyres.
The next couple of hours were spent negotiating mountain passes, switch backs and cliff faced cuts on roughly ploughed roads in sometimes heavy snow and we didn’t break a sweat.
I can guarantee that had we not had the benefit of winter tyres, there would have been tears, meltdowns and second thoughts about the entire trip – no doubt. And we are both confident drivers. Anyone who tells you that this kind of driving doesn’t concern them in the slightest is a liar or stupid or, simply fails to understand the risks and physics of driving on snow and ice.
However, we both jollily chatted the whole way about how we’d have been completely screwed without Falken and had we had any signal, we’d have sent them a message telling them they’d saved our bacon.
Here are a few bits of information if you’re completely new to the idea of winter tyres.
- You can pay a massive amount for a set of winter/snow tyres but you don’t have to. Ours are about £60-£100 per tyre depending on size and all you have to pay on top is to have them switched onto your own rims and balanced (unless you buy a full new set). We had ours done at Buckingham Tyre and Exhaust Centre so if you’re in their area, give them a call – they know what they’re doing.
- We don’t really know who decided that in Austria snow tyres are compulsory, and half a mile away in Italy they’re optional but we’ve come to the conclusion that this is all nonsense. If there’s a safer option available, we’re following the health and safety police advice. They’re not ruining anyone’s fun and they’ll make your drive infinitely more comfortable and safer for both you and other road users…
- Winter tyres aren’t just better in snow. They’re better in colder conditions generally – your regular summer compounds will start to harden and provide less grip from 7oC down. Scary right?
- It’s about braking and traction. Both of these are specifically designed to be improved in wet and snowy conditions with a winter tyre, giving you a better chance of maintaining control of your vehicle in the event of the doodoo hitting the fan.
- NB: ALL YOUR WHEELS NEED THE SAME SPEC TYRE. There’s a common misconception that you only need winter tyres on the drive wheels but that’s not the case for a million obvious (and not so obvious) reasons.
You’re not an ice road trucker. You’re most likely a novice at best.
Just get snow tyres and accept it’s one of the many costs of freedom. Freedom to explore new mountains, freedom to follow the snow and live in a 14m2 luxury chalet on wheels.
If you’re still unsure whether you’ll need winter tyres (not everywhere is compulsory), we followed this blog up with an interview with Marcus Schulz at Falken about what exactly constitutes a winter tyre and it includes a full and comprehensive list of where winter tyres are mandatory. Check it out – it’s definitely worth a read.